It All Lines Up: Tennis Title Town
Funny how the balance of power seems to work itself out in this town.
In the wake of the Darien lacrosse programs being bounced -- shockingly -- before the FCIAC finals, New Canaan's two lax clubs looked poised to win at least one title, right?
Didn't happen. That's OK;'twas a bit of a screwy year in lacrosse. In fact, it's nice to see a perennial power fall every now and again to remind us all that this is high school sports, after all. Dynasties shouldn't be promised or expected, no matter the history.
But before the teams with the sticks fell in their finals, the teams with the rackets held up their end of the bargain. The boys and girls tennis teams captured conference crowns and continued to keep New Canaan a cornerstone school for FCIAC dominance. No matter the season, this school brings home, minimum, one FCIAC champion. (Let's not ever take that for granted, either.)
Now we've got two more, and I'm writing this before the boys and girls golf championships have been completed.
The girls, who won last Wednesday in some unbearable heat, deserve a lot of credit for their undefeated run in the conference -- especially given the climate they did it in. I pulled into the Wilton High parking lot, found a tree to park under and peeked at my the outside-temperature gauge in my car before shutting it off.
It read 94 degrees.
Yikes. In fact, it was so miserable that it shocked me Greenwich and New Canaan didn't try and play down the road, inside at the Four Seasons Racquet Club.
I wondered: Was it the hottest match Rams coach Gail Overbeck had seen with this program?
"Absolutely the hottest, and I was against playing it, to tell you the truth," Overbeck said. "You're playing with kids' lives, and here we are, sending kids to the hospital."
Overbeck was referring to Greenwich No. 4 singles player, senior Andrea Carlsson, who was treated for heat exhaustion. (She was hydrated at the hospital that night and released.)
Regardless, the girls played on, and New Canaan got its second straight win over the Cardinals. Greenwich had won 83 matches in a row before falling against New Canaan a couple of weeks ago. Suddenly, there was no answer to the powerful enigma that's become the Rams girls tennis team.
How quickly the power at the top can change. Top-seeded New Canaan wasn't even threatened in its title match, winning 5-2 (including sweeping the four singles matches), and getting its first FCIAC title since 2006. For Overbeck, it was her third FCIAC title. She's now chasing her ninth state crown, which should come even easier this week (but no promises!).
Part of the reason for the romp was part-time No. 1 Tina Tehrani, the senior who defeated freshman Jenn DeLuca, 6-0, 6-0, and was able to squeeze in a few matches this year around her pro-tournament schedule. Tehrani, who didn't play last year because of SAT prep and a heavy junior tennis circuit schedule, bumps normal No. 1 Kate Mannelly to the 2 spot, and then it just gets ugly for opponents.
In case you were wondering, Tehrani's said her part-time status is this: Though she was planning to play full-time with the team (she was asked to be captain), her mother signed her up for more than five pro tournaments. The FCIAC rule is, if you play more than five, you can't play high school matches. But she curbed her tournament play was allowed to be a part of the group until she played in her fifth tournament, which still hasn't happened.
Next, Tehrani prepares for the U.S. Open qualifier on June 11. Tehrani said she likely wouldn't be available to play in states, so her run with the Rams seemed to end last Wednesday.Even with that, the depth of this team's singles lineup has gotten somewhat ridiculous.
"I wouldn't want to be facing us," Overbeck said with a smile after the win.
The compounded effect down the lineup in the title match, with Gallagher sisters Caitlin and Courtney coming into their own and running roughshod over the competition, made for a quick verdict. Even Caitlin got revenge last week, as she was able to defeat Samantha Stone 6-2, 6-1 after losing the first time around in the team's 4-3 win over Greenwich.
Kim Glerum and Alyssa Baker, the MVPs of the league, exemplify a lot of what's made this team a fun watch and a dominate group in recent years. They're loose and have an unoffending confidence about them. The honesty is good, too.
"It's definitely harder to come in, having won," Glerum said. "It's easier to come in as the underdog when there's less pressure and nothing to lose."
"And your mindset, once you've beaten a team it's sit back and not have that intense mindset," Baker added.
This team that has five freshmen and a new sophomore to the group probably gets another title for Overbeck next year. But, as I said before, there are no guarantees.
"They're learning and they're playing upperclassmen, too," Overbeck said.
And for as dominant a performance the girls had, the boys matched them in drama. Staples hadn't lost all season, and you could see the doubt in the body language of the Wreckers' players.
"The FCIAC title is the best title because we all know that the best teams in the state all play in this league," head coach Dan Borgman told me afterward. "That's why it means so much more. This is the big title."
No doubt it is, and Greenwich has been knocked from its tower in both sports. Overbeck got her first title in three years -- Borgman waited 15 to get his back.
The celebrations with both teams mimicked each other, though, and it was very nice to see most of the girls team come out and support their male counterparts a day after they won. The new face of FCIAC spring dominance in this town: the tennis programs.